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Labor Day chili champs

MORE: Read more news from Fredericksburg

ABOVE: The winners of the fourth annual Wolfe Street chili cookoff. Amanda Kotval won the People’s Choice award, and Brian McGehee won the Grand Master award, as the judges’ choice.

I just finished writing a story for this week’s Food section about a chili cookoff that neighbors on Wolfe Street in Fredericksburg hold each year, and even though I ate from 13 different bowls of chili yesterday, I am once again hungry for chili.

As you can read later this week, Wolfe Street residents take their chili seriously, but not so seriously that they get all frou-frou with over-the-top high end ingredients and deconstructed artsy stuff like you’d see in a Top Chef chili cookoff.

This is straight up good chili, with a wide variety of colors, textures, heat levels, beans and meats.

You don’t want to overthink chili, and I thought a story from one of the contest’s past winners was illustrative of that.

Stephen Craig, last year’s Grand Master winner in the Wolfe Street contest, had his first chili cookoff experience several years ago at the Heritage Festival contest that used to be hosted by the Lions Club.

He and several friends got the idea to enter a chili just so they could get to taste all the others for free.

But once they bought all of the ingredients for their chicken chili, the tally came to around $150.

“I kind of got soured on chili cook-offs at that point,” Craig said.

So when he was shopping for a recipe for the Wolfe Street competition, “I just tried to find one that was inexpensive and easy to do, and sounded good.”

This year, he swapped out the meat in his recipe for what happened to be in his freezer–beef, pork, venison and bison, some of which was provided by friends who hunt.

The result may not have won in Saturday’s competition, but as a judge at the event, I can say it was mighty tasty.

Read more about this food tradition in an upcoming edition of The Free Lance-Star Food section.